Settlement reached in Uber wrongful death lawsuit

Uber has settled a California wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a 6-year-old girl against a driver who was logged into the ride service and available to provide rides, according to court documents. The parties have agreed on a confidential out-of-court settlement, and representatives of Uber and a lawyer for the family could not be reached for comment. The girl was crossing a street in a crosswalk in San Francisco with her mother and brother when the fatal accident occurred on New Year's Eve in 2013.

Uber is a fast-growing company that allows drivers to seek passengers who might otherwise need to call a taxi. The drivers log into an Uber smartphone app in order to find customers. There is a growing debate about whether Uber drivers are employees of the company or independent contractors.

After the loss of a loved one due to someone else's negligence, the surviving families may be entitled to file a lawsuit in court against the parties responsible. In many states, the lawsuit is filed on behalf of the survivors by a personal representative of the decedent. The damages that are allowed to be sought are in some cases specified by statute, and they often include funeral and burial expenses.

Companies are usually not liable for the actions of their independent contractors, but apparently Uber in this case didn't want to risk establishing a precedent. In a similar situation, an experienced personal injury lawyer may be able to help support a claim for damages against a company by arguing that the person whose negligence was the cause of the accident was an employee rather than independent contractor and that the company should thus be held responsible under the theory of vicarious liability.

Source: Reuters, "Uber settles wrongful death lawsuit in San Francisco crash", Dan Levine, July 14, 2015

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